Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Talk about jumping through hoops !!

This past weekend, a female friend of mine met with her church's Session and then her CPM in order to move herself along in the path toward ordination. It doesn't appear that she's going to have much of a problem.

However, someone I had talked to about this has a sister who's a minister, and a mom who has been involved with the CPM and other Presbytery committees in a Presbytery out west. He recounted how his sister when she went through the process ten years ago, had a minister on the CPM who was rather traditional (his phrase, not mine) about women ministers. This CPM member was worried that she didn't have enough training, so she had to do another six months of education.

Of course, not knowing more about what training was required, its hard to figure what was going on, since in 1998, women in the ministry were no longer an anomaly, but normal in the PCUSA.

Not knowing the background, I can only figure out two areas of education that would have been required: field education, interning with a church, or CPE, doing a period of chaplaincy at a hospital or hospice.

Today, I feel the main issues today are the lack of trust in the denomination, and the problems with a Presbytery that leans one way politically, and an inquirer/candidate who leans the other way.

The issues of either using too much inclusive language, or not enough inclusive language; belief whether the Bible was inspired or that the Bible has good ideas; what the definition of marriage should be; whether or not an ordained officer should be faithful in marriage, or chaste in singleness; etc, etc, etc.

Those issues are more likely to be asked about on the floor of a Presbytery, than whether or not the person has enough education.

Is this really the Holy Spirit, or just a mean-spiritedness of those who are opposed to whatever the inquirer/candidate believes.

And so it goes ....

Friday, October 17, 2008

RevGalPals' Friday Five

While I'm not a RevGal, I've been reading blogs on their list for some time now. I saw this Friday Five, and thought that this would be a fun one to play:

Friday Five: Coin Toss Edition
Well, Gals and Pals, this weekend we'll be rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar's, and that has me thinking about coinage.

1) When was the last time you flipped a coin or even saw one flipped in person?

I believe it was about a month ago, it was for a joke, but I pulled out a quarter and flipped it. Settled the small disagreement too!

2) Do you have any foreign coins in your house? If so, where are they from?
I have a number of foreign coins, and paper bills. A British 2 pound coin, along with 1, 10 and 50p coins. A 5 punt note from Ireland, which I picked up in 2001 before they went to the Euro. I also have coins from Saudi Arabia, and Greece, as well as a 100 dinar note from Oman.

3) A penny saved is a penny earned, they say. But let's get serious. Is there a special place in heaven for pennies, or do you think they'll find a special place in, well, the other place?
Well .. I do know that they used to congregate in jars on my dresser until my wife yelled about possible dents in the wood from the jars. Now they proliferate in and over the small tray on the dresser. I won't swear by it, but it sure looks like they're taking the Biblical exhortation to go forth and multiply much like wire hangers do in closets.

4) How much did you get from the tooth fairy when you were a child? and if you have children of your own, do they get coins, or paper money? (I hear there may be some inflation.)
No kids of my own, but when I was a child back when Eisenhower was president, I got 10 cents, later my sisters made 25, and they were only 2 and 4 years younger than me. I claimed age and sex discrimination, but due to the times I was labeled a pinko and told to shut up.

5) Did anyone in your household collect the state quarters? And did anyone in your household manage to sustain the interest required to stick with it?
I looked at the idea, then thought, that there'll be so many in circulation, even if I got all 50 coins, they would not be worth any more than face value in my lifetime.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Justice for the Migrant Worker ... but what about our Seniors ??

OK ... I have to admit, I'm approaching that age where I'm looking at what is going to happen when I reach Social Security Retirement age. Not that I'm thinking about taking the early retirement at 62, but still with what's going on, with the economy, I'm looking at what I will be receiving at that time.

So I'm looking at this morning's (Oct 16th) paper, and there's an article on how inflation increases to Social Security payments (Cost of Living Allowance or COLA) do not help to offset the actual expenses that seniors experience on a day to day basis. This year's COLA will probably be in the neighborhood of 6%. That sounds kinda nice, but then, when the increase in home heating bills can range anywhere from 10 to 50%, this increase doesn't do much.

There was a chart showing that the cost of gas has increased 185% since 2000, eggs 147%, Medicate part B monthly cost 112%, Dental exam 52% and homeowner's insurance 36%. The flip side of this is that the average Social Security check has only increased 24% since 2000.

Doesn't make much sense does it? Well part of the problem is the way the SSA has to calculate the way the COLA is determined. Since 1975, the COLA was based on the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers or CPI-W, developed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. BLS later developed the CPI-E, CPI for Elderly Earners, which tracks the spending of elderly consumers and more accurately reflects the costs of health care. If this had been used from its inception in 1984, the average SS check would be $75 more per month. Hey, any little bit helps.

Of course, changing the CPI used to the CPI-E has no advocates in Congress, not to mention in the SSA or the BLS. Wouldn't this be a great measure for the PCUSA and especially its Washington office to pursue, considering the average age of Presbyterians in the PCUSA is approaching 60? Instead of the Washington office advocating positions not fully endorsed by a majority of people in the pews, and the office of the Stated Clerk and other PCUSA offices advocating for a living income for migrants; why not include advocating a change to help seniors who need help to get by.

Not everyone has a 401K or huge dividend income to live on. Then again, after the past few weeks, even those who thought they had a residual income to live on could use a boost, no matter how little.

And so it goes ...

Sunday, October 12, 2008

There is hope!

I just returned from a blogging friend's installation in Woodchuck-Servant Presbytery where I was gratified to hear evangelical Presbyterian preachers, both male and female, proclaim the Word without pussyfooting around the terms 'sin', 'redemption', 'atonement', and 'blood of Christ'.

There was an exhortation to those present to always be faithful to the Word, and to always point out when the Word is not being faithfully proclaimed. Speak the truth in Christian love, but SPEAK IT !! The congregation was very pleased at their choice of pastor, in fact, the elder who lead the congregation in its section of the required Book of Order requirements had to say as an aside, that he was very excited at this new beginning.

It was a very uplifting and exciting service, and I was very glad I was able to make it.

And so it goes ....

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Last one out turn out the lights!!

Just finished reading the Sunday paper. Seems like another mainline Protestant denomination is undergoing upheaval because of a move from biblical and traditional standards.

The Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh (ECUSA)has voted with approximatedly 2 to 1 majority of laity and 3 to 1 in clergy to secede from the ECUSA and align themselves under an Anglican Province in the Southern Cone (evidently based in Argentina). What this will do is move about 56 or so congregations to the Anglican Church from the Episcopal.

The reasons they're leaving are the same for many other ECUSA churches moving under an Anglican Province, the trend in ECUSA doctrine, biblical authority and sexual ethics moving toward what is happening in the culture and away from standards that have been in place for 2,000 years.

There were those conservatives who wanted to reform from within: "Jesus' instruction to the church is to seek and save the lost, many in the leadership of the Episcopal Church are still among the lost ... and are leading other souls astray. I believe those of us who can see that are sent by Christ to those very people to call them to repentance and new life."

However, those who voted to leave talked about leaders who deviate from classic doctrines are not fit to follow. One of those pastors cited a diocese that declared all humans were "begotten children of God," a title the ancient creeds give to Christ alone.

"We only want to preserve the faith that the people who came before us have believed and loved and known," he said.

And what did the liberals do, they took their ball and went home claiming they did not want to condone these actions by staying for the rest of the convention.

So much for discourse. Of course, this has been done in the past, when those mainline Protestants who support the conservative view are labeled fundamentalists or anti-gay or so on. In reality, many of us Presbyterian moderate/conservatives have great compassion for our gay brothers and sisters, and pray for them daily to recognize that while we love them as brethren, we cannot condone actions or a lifestyle that the Book of Confessions and Scripture call sin.

So that makes two ECUSA dioceses that have decided to leave, San Joaquin and Pittsburgh. And have no doubt, there are individual congregations outside of those two dioceses whose vestries are looking at severing ties.

Which makes me wonder ... with so many large churches deciding to leave their mainline denomination, churches that are growing on a regular basis, and seeding new church plants that hold to the same biblical standards. With liberal churches slowing losing members, either through transfer to a more moderate or conservative church, or members just dying off, I'm wondering what will happen to the PCUSA in the next 10 to 20 years.

As the title suggests ... the last one out please turn out the lights!!

And so it goes .....

(Some quotes and paragraphs taken from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette report by Ann Rodgers, Oct 5 2008)

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Another sad day!!

If you read Presbyweb on Oct 3rd, you'll see that the Pittsburgh Presbytery's PJC ruled in favor of the defendant in a certain trial held at the Priory (which I believe is a hotel in a former RC Church and Benedictine residence) in Pittsburgh.

Although the principle in the trial said publicly that she considered the ceremony performed was a marriage, and said so during the ceremony. Evidently, that doesn't hold sway with the PJC because the PCUSA's Book of Order (BOO) says that there is no such thing as a gay marriage. So just because she said she performed one, doesn't mean it was one.

Even though the 1991 General Assembly said:

GA (1991, 395, 21.124, Req. 91-23): Not proper for minister to perform same sex union ceremony that the minister determines to be the same as a marriage ceremony, nor should a session allow use of church property for such a ceremony.

The verdict was unanimous for acquittal. Here are some excerpts from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article:

Since church and state define marriage as between a man and a woman, she cannot have done what she was accused of, the court ruled yesterday.

"It can't be an offense to the constitution to attempt to do the impossible," said the decision, read by the Rev. Stewart Pollock, chairman of the Permanent Judicial Commission of Pittsburgh Presbytery.

Of course this flies in the face of this admission, again from the P-G:

The Rev. Edwards, a parish associate at the multi-denominational Community of Reconciliation in Oakland, conducted the ceremony in 2005 in McKees Rocks. Church court rulings at the time said that ministers may bless same-sex couples but "should not" use liturgy that resembles a marriage ceremony. The Rev. Edwards admits she intended to perform a marriage, but says that "should not" doesn't mean "must not."

"Should not" does not mean "must not" ... when the GA said that it is NOT proper for a minister to do a same-sex ceremony the minister determines to be the same as a marriage. The BOO itself on page 5 that: SHOULD signifies practice that is strongly recommended.

So, the BOO strongly recommends that a minister NOT claim a same sex ceremony is a marriage; the GA says its NOT proper to claim a same sex ceremony is a marriage. Doesn't it logically follow that doing so is not a good idea, and is violating the intent of the BOO and AI in this case ??

While reading the Classical Presbyterian blog, another blogger who is in favor of same sex marriage, as well as the ordination of practicing homosexuals, left a link to his blog where he said that the prosecution's case was one of 'Presbyterian Ineptitude' because the prosecution had only one witness; while the defendant had three lawyers, and witnesses such as a doctoral student in theology at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Calif (AFAIK ... not a bastion of centrist thought).

The student "drew chuckles when she argued that "unnatural acts" are not always sinful. "Resurrection is very contrary to nature," she said."

Oh that's funny, drawing a parallel between Christ's Resurrection, and "unnatural acts", which could include bestiality, pederasty, etc.

Another witness: "professor of historical theology at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, said that a core church document, the Westminster Confession of Faith, defined marriage as between "one man and one woman" because of 17th-century sects that promoted polygamy.

Really, I had thought it said so because Jesus said so in Mark 10-6,pp: But at the beginning of creation God 'made them male and female.'[a] 7'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife,[b] 8and the two will become one flesh.'[c] So they are no longer two, but one.

Ineptitude ?? More likely it was poverty rather than ineptitude, it must be nice to be able to find pro bono legal advice and expert testimony to be able to put on your defense with.

However, who am I to argue with the Presbytery PJC, who could only rule on the evidence brought before it. As part of the decision reads:

The Prosecuting Committee offered no evidence of the words actually used (emphasis mine) at the ceremony ... and thus there is no evidence that the words used held out the ceremony as a marriage. The only evidence offered included the bulletin and the "Wedding Ceremony Order of Service". While it could be inferred that the actually words at the ceremony were identical to the words in the "Wedding Ceremony Order of Service", there simply is insufficient proof that the actual ceremony was intended by the accused to be a marriage, or that she believed it could be a marriage ceremony.

Not knowing the procedure of a PJC trial, I have no idea if the accused was asked questions, but I suspect that there, as a normal civil trial, the accused does not have to take the stand. Instead she sat and let her defense team of lawyers, and flown in "experts" from California and LPTS demolish the prosecution.

After all with no actual audio of the event; at least none available to the prosecution, there wasn't much else the prosecution could do.

What is it going to take in order to be able to make any charge stick to those who are determined to thumb their noses at what has been polity for years, hiring private investigators to follow them with a video camera or tape recorder??

And so it goes.